17 April 2011


Growing up, I was part of the typical American family. We had the typical married couple, one full-time working breadwinner dad and one stay-at-home mom in the beginning who later worked when the two kids were in school. We had a dog from the time I was 4 to 18, a cat from age 8 to age 28 and two goldfish that lasted as long as goldfish tend to last. My dad worked in sales and finance for several car dealerships during his career. He liked spaghetti, popcorn and German chocolate cake, and he always had a couple cases of IBC Root Beer in the fridge. Though cell phones and BlackBerrys did not exist at that time, he was what I would call a workaholic during the 80s and 90s. He worked a lot and when he came home, he just wanted to turn on whatever sporting event was in season at the time and pass out. Though he was home, he wasn't really there all the time.

My mom, on the other hand, was always around. As the primary care giver and ruler of the house, she got so tired of my brother and me calling her and asking for things
 that she banned the word, "mom" a few times. "Call me 'hey you,' call me 'Sam,' call me whatever you want. Just don't call me 'mom' today. I can't take it," she would say. I have a ton of memories of my brother and me getting into all kinds of trouble and the crazy faces and sounds my mom would make when she would discover whatever we had done. I also remember that having my mom around always meant that we had someone to come home to, someone to cook dinner every night and to teach me to cook in the process. We always had cookies, pies and cupcakes around the house for any occasion - birthdays, holidays or sometimes just because.

I remember lying on the couch in my grandmother's house one day on a break from my sophomore year of college. We moved in with my grandmother after my parents divorced on June 2, 1995, so her home became our home over the next decade. I was laying on the couch one day. I looked at my mom standing at the other end and I said, "I don't even know why I am in college. I just want to grow up and be a mom." She gave me one of those faces of both sheer surprise and threat, her eyes big like my brother and I had been caught beating on each other again. "Don't you even say that," she yelled. My mom had always instilled in me the way life should be: first, you finish high school without a boyfriend, then you go to college without getting into a serious relationship. Then you get a career and then you start thinking about getting married. Kids can come later. So the fact that I was mentioning kids in college while dating someone really messed with the order of operations.

But, I did as I was told because that is how I eventually needed my life to happen. I needed to graduate and make something of myself before I would agree to marry my now husband. Until I was settled and confident in my career and in my ability to care for myself, I was not ready to have someone try to care for me. I started off in the typical entry-level position and wound up the head of a communications department in a global corporation within five years, just as I wanted. I got a BlackBerry as part of my position, just as I wanted. And I eventually walked that fine line called the work-life balance. My standard work week turned into five 12-hour days plus some work at home on the weekends. Occasionally I would work in the office over a weekend or two but only for a big project.

I was at a point where I was certain we would need an au pair or a live-in nanny to watch our children when we had them because I did not want to quit my job. I was at a point when I almost hired an Ohio State student to be my personal assistant to run errands for me like go to the grocery store, pick up my dry cleaning and pick up some items from my dentist that had been sitting with the receptionist for three weeks. I see them in movies and on TV all the time. Why couldn't I have one? Frankly, the thought of being in that role again with a personal assistant running errands so that I could spend more time with Paul would be great. I am sure I will be revisiting this scenario again.

My husband and I read a book on the five love languages and found out that we have the same top two love languages but in reverse order. The love language that is Paul's first and my second - quality time. And what was my biggest challenge? Providing Paul with quality time. I somehow allowed my life to be dominated by work. The few friends that I had outside of work lived in various states and, though I did have a few friends in Columbus, I did not have a lot of time to spend with them. I worked all the time. Early mornings, late nights and the weekends belonged to Paul. At least they were supposed to. But, on several occasions, I watched Paul go to bed Sunday night and then I stayed up for a few hours finishing up some weekend work so that I would not be overloaded Monday. When Paul would call during the week to see when I would be home, I would give him one time and he just started adding three hours to make it even. Paul was a commercial pilot who worked for an airline so I only got to see him a few days a week. I did my best to make him a priority but sometimes I did not live up to my end of the deal. And there was the issue - I loved my job and wanted to be in that role with that company and the greatest team of people but I also loved my husband and knew that I had moved work above him in my priority list. 

We moved to Singapore because Paul accepted an opportunity to fly privately for a business man and, let's be honest, because I really liked the thought of living in another country. He is now the one hosting and attending meetings, developing agendas and formulating relationships with his key industry contacts. Hearing my husband talk about meetings is weird. He is a pilot. Pilots don't go to meetings. He is on his BlackBerry making and taking phone calls, sending e-mails and texting various individuals who are connected to the aircraft he is managing. We come home and his nose becomes buried in paperwork as he looks over maintenance logs and receipts for services. He is responsible for making contacts in the local aviation industry, overseeing maintenance work and ensuring the aircraft is airworthy before stepping into the cockpit to actually fly. 

Last week Paul started work and it hit me. I now know how my husband felt when I was working so many hours and was tied to my BlackBerry. I understand his frustration as we were talking and then I was reading e-mails in my hand and asking him to either pause for a moment or repeat himself because I was not paying attention the first time. This hit me after two days! I can only imagine the disappointment I caused him over and over and over again. I apologized last night because I knew what I was doing but I still let work take over. This is me - experiencing life on the other side.

1 comment:

Ada said...

Ah, you have had a role reversal and life has just hit you in the face. That happens once in a while. However, it is a good thing. Live and learn. I was waiting to hear about Paul's view. Has it hit him yet that he is living your past life in the US? God works in wonderous ways to help us learn and practice tolerance.
What is the art world like there?
Love, Auntie